17 January 2019

Halal meat row is being used to stir up racial hatred says council leader

Kirklees Council has gone on the offensive over its policy of serving non-stunned halal meat in its schools.

Council Leader Shabir Pandor accused those campaigning for the policy to be reversed of using animal welfare as tool to stir up racial hatred.

He said they were taking advantage of communities and playing with fears on an issue that ran deep.

And in rejecting calls to end the policy he said: "This debate has been generated deliberately on the back of creating divisions, hatred and putting communities against one another.

"We cannot afford this council chamber to be fooled into a situation where we create a scenario that we cannot control."

In a strong rebuke to anti-halal campaigners he said their moral outrage was "politically motivated".

The announcement has disappointed the National Secular Society, which raised the issue of non-stunned meat in school last year. It said the council was "normalising cruelty to animals".

Clr Pandor's comments followed deputations both in support of serving non-stunned halal meat, and against.

The debate was prompted after more than 7,000 people signed an online petition calling for all meat served in the borough's schools to be stunned before slaughter.

.... "These councillors are dismissing the concerns of Kirklees residents who do not wish their council to supply this meat to children, including Muslims who reject the hardline interpretations of Islam that the council has effectively endorsed.

"Indeed the council's policy flies in the face of the fact that the majority of halal meat consumed by Muslims in the UK is from animals stunned prior to slaughter.

"Those who claim to be standing up for Muslims are in fact helping to stir social resentment and entrench reactionary views both among Muslims and against them." [Examiner Live] Read more

Ex-Muslim activist says renouncing Islam more difficult for women, invited constant sexual harassment

Zara Kay was 18 years old when she tore off her hijab and renounced her religion.

Now, the outspoken ex-Muslim wants the world to know there are a lot of women like she once was, who are forced to wear the hijab but secretly don’t believe in Islam.

The 26-year-old was born in Tanzania and raised as a strict Shia Muslim, but moved to Australia shortly after she renounced her faith.

“I have spoken to a lot of Iranians who are forced to wear a hijab by law,” Ms Kay told news.com.au, explaining that in countries where the religious garment is an enforced dress code for women, these dress codes are not necessarily governed by their faith.

Ms Kay began wearing a hijab at the age of eight and started questioning her faith from a young age. Her parents encouraged her to be educated, and she graduated from high school early, gaining a Master’s degree by the age of 21.

Her aim now is to highlight the plight of other ex-Muslim women, including those who may be living in secret, still fearful to publicly renounce their faith. [news.com.au] Read more

16 January 2019

Malaysia to revise school textbook telling girls to cover up

Malaysia has said it will revise a national school textbook after a section suggesting girls should cover up to avoid sexual assault sparked outrage among women’s rights supporters.

The book, aimed at nine-year-olds, includes a chapter called “protecting one’s dignity” in which a girl’s parents are shown telling her to dress modestly or she would be ostracized by her friends and bring shame to her family.

The image went viral on social media, causing anger among campaigners and parents who said it perpetuated the idea that sexual violence could be blamed on how a woman dresses.

The education ministry said in a statement late Tuesday it would cover up the controversial page with stickers “because the infographic can be construed as blaming sexual assault victims”. [Reuters] Read more

Rahaf Mohammad and the Need for Universal Human Rights

.... The incident exposes the shallow thinking of social influencers who denigrate would-be allies of the most vulnerable Muslims and dissidents by disseminating the cliché that women of Muslim heritage should be left to deal with their troubles on their own, without the interference of non-Muslims.

People advocating that non-Muslims stay in their lane include well-known Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy: “Unless you are a Muslim woman shut the f**k up about the veil. This is our conversation,” and senior lecturer at Sydney Law school, Ghena Krayem: “Muslim women do not need to be saved by others, nor do they need you to speak for them.”

Such commentators should bear in mind that they alone could hardly have had sufficient impact to have helped Rahaf—at least not without the assistance of millions of people, including ex-Muslims, reformers and infidel Westerners.

Many paid lip service to Rahaf’s cause, but attempted to use their advocacy to strip her of the most (or only) effective means of rescue: the world’s attention. Such commentators rush to the defense of Muslims when their alleged victimhood consists of mere offense. Such actions do nothing to protect tolerant Muslims (who by definition can withstand dissent from their faith). [AreoMagazine.com] Read more

Denmark: "In One Generation, Our Country Has Changed"

.... A recent government study, "Analysis of children of descendants with a non-Western background", shows that there continue to be huge problems with assimilating immigrants into Danish society.

.... Least of all, Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen. In his New Year's speech, he said that things are "going well" in Denmark. He did not mention the study about the descendants of non-Western immigrants, or that the Danish government has no significant answers to the many questions that the existence of Muslim parallel societies poses -- although he did mention that Muslim parallel societies constitute a problem and that immigrants must learn to put secular values over religious ones. He just did not say how he planned to address all that.

"When I was in high school, he also said, "there were around 50,000 people with a non-Western background in Denmark. Today, there are almost half a million. In one generation, our country has changed". The country did not just "change". Danish politicians, with their policies, changed it. [Gatestone Institute] Read more

15 January 2019

TV station founded by Islamic preacher banned from UK for saying 'all Muslims should be terrorists' is probed over guest's claim that fathers should 'push' daughters into marriage

A TV station founded by an Islamic preacher banned from the UK is under investigation after a guest claimed fathers should 'push' their daughters into marriage.

Islamic scholar Haitham al-Haddad, once described as 'one of the most dangerous men in Britain', made the statements on Peace TV's Marriage and Divorce show in November.

During a broadcast, he claimed fathers should 'push' and 'convince' their daughters to get married and said it was 'alarming' for women to want to go on to higher education before marrying.

His comments are now being investigated by media regulator Ofcom, the Times reported.

Dr Haddad also said women who were unmarried in their 30s would 'not receive good proposals'.

He said he knew older women who wished their parents had pushed them to wed when they were younger.

The investigation comes after it was revealed in October that Amazon sends cash to Dr Haddad's Muslim Research and Development Foundation (MRDF) charity.

Under its charitable scheme Amazon Smile, the tech giant donates a percentage of customers' money to the MRDF – described as 'the main Salafist organisation in the UK'.

The Salafi movement promotes a hardline interpretation of Islam and is linked with jihadism. [Daily Mail] Read more

14 January 2019

'I was called a sl*t for taking off my hijab': Student, 26, who renounced Islam reveals she still receives death threats for ditching the religion – and says hundreds more women are living in fear

.... Zara Kay, who moved to Melbourne in 2012 to continue studying information technology and engineering, renounced her Muslim faith after realising the religion she was raised with was, in her opinion, anti-women and anti-gay.

The 26-year-old Tanzanian-raised founder of the Faithless Hijabi support group said there were hundreds of ex-Muslims in Australia, who live in fear of being ostacised, abused or even killed.

'Apostasy is punishable by death in 13 countries. It's either Islam or death,' she told her Instagram followers on Sunday.

Ms Kay, who now lives in Sydney, has stepped up her campaign to support people like herself, after Saudi teenager Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun was granted asylum in Canada, after fleeing to Thailand fearing her family would murder her for leaving Islam.

Ms Kay began wearing the hijab when she was an eight-year-old girl growing up in Tanzania, in east Africa, as a Shia Muslim. [Daily Mail Australia] Read more

13 January 2019

Toronto Imam is issuing religious marriage certificates for polygamous relationships

A recent investigative report by the Fifth Estate has revealed that a Toronto mosque has been issuing marriage certificates for Muslims in polygamous relationships.

Polygamy is illegal in Canada under section 293 of the Criminal Code, however it is rarely prosecuted by the legal system.

“I’ve decided to have a marriage again, to take a second wife” says the undercover reporter to Imam Aly Hindy.

“We have no problem with the government because this is nikah [a Muslim marriage]. There is no problem,” says the Imam.

“We are not going to register. If you register then it is illegal because you are already married.”

When confronted with the video of his statements, Imam Aly Hindy says that “you can’t prevent” polygamy.

“We have a problem and eventually this society, we’re going to recognize that there’s not enough men for each woman.”

Imam Aly Hindy has courted controversy before. In 2012 Hindy was quoted telling his congregation that homosexuality was “nonsense” and an “invented” phenomenon. [The Post Millennial] Read more

Egypt university expels female student for hugging male friend

Egypt's Al-Azhar university on Sunday said it had expelled a female student after she appeared in a video hugging a male colleague, accusing her of undermining the school's reputation.

The video, which went viral earlier this month, showed a young man carrying a bouquet of flowers kneeling before a young woman and then hugging her in what appeared to be a marriage proposal.

The video was apparently not filmed at Al-Azhar -- a branch of Egypt's highest Sunni Muslim authority -- but at another establishment, Mansoura University in the country's north.

Nevertheless the disciplinary council of the Al-Azhar University campus in Mansoura on Saturday "decided to expel the young girl definitively", university spokesman Ahmed Zarie told AFP.

He said the video had caused a "public outcry" and that the university's decision to expel her was because she had presented a "bad image" of Al-Azhar University, which strictly segregates the genders.

He said hugging between unmarried men and women violates "the values and principles of society". [France24] Read more

12 January 2019

21pc girls in Pakistan become victim of child marriage, WHO reports

A recent report issued by World Health Organisation (WHO) has shed light on the issue of child marriages in Pakistan saying such practice is most common in rural areas. It further said that more than 140 million underage girls are likely to get married between 2011 to 2020.

According to the WHO report titled 'Demographics of child marriages in Pakistan', child marriage remains a serious concern in Pakistan, with 21 per cent of girls getting married before reaching the age of 18, especially in the rural areas.

Formal marriage or informal union before age 18 occurs throughout the world, it added. However, being forced into marriage before one was able to give consent violates the basic human rights of boys and girls, the report said.

It further said that the percentage of child marriage remained high in Sindh, with 72 per cent girls and 25 per cent boys becoming victims to this menace, however, the highest number of girl child marriages were recorded in the tribal areas of Pakistan, with 99 per cent girls married under this unlawful traditional practice. [Dawn.Com] Read more

Amina Lone: Denying women liberty and life is Islamophobic

.... Question why little girls are shrouded in “invisibility cloaks” or ask what would happen if their daughter came home wearing a skirt instead of getting changed at the back of the bus and you are met with a deathly stare. Muslims often remain silent or prevaricate when Islamic human rights abuses are exposed.

Perversely, many in the liberal West are terrified of calling this puritanism out. How else can one explain opinion pieces from Islamic groups and individuals without any counter-analysis? How often is the CEMB interviewed alongside the self-appointed Muslim Council of Britain? Is the former given opportunities to challenge or critique the latter’s claims? The obvious conclusion is this is deliberate — fear of being called anti-Muslim, laziness in seeking the loudest voices. The result is that the mullah’s men win without even lifting the Koran. [The Times (£)] Read more

Europe: More Nifty Censorship from the EU

.... There is, according to the European Commission, a "need for action", as "unfavourable views of Muslims appear to have surged in the past few years". The European Commission does not, of course, offer up the possibility that such unfavorable views might be due to the fact that an overwhelming majority of all terrorist attacks on European soil in recent years have been committed primarily by one group, among several other signs of transformation on the European continent.

Examples include preaching jihad against "infidels" in mosques; the rise of rape, as well as rape grooming gangs -- not exclusively, but overwhelmingly run by the same group in countries such as the UK, the Netherlands and now also apparently Finland; brutal misogynist practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM), honor killings, forced marriages and polygamy -- in addition to an exponential rise in anti-Semitism, especially in France.

Sadly, the main victims of many of the abuses that the European Commission seemingly wishes to silence are Muslims, often women and children, and often too scared to speak out (here, here and here). [Gatestone Institute] Read more

Rahaf al-Qunun: Saudi teen refugee arrives in Canada

A Saudi teenager who fled her family and got stranded at a Bangkok airport has arrived in Canada after being granted asylum there.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, had been trying to reach Australia via Bangkok but was initially told to return to Kuwait, where her family were waiting.

She refused to fly back and barricaded herself into her airport hotel room, attracting international attention.

She said she had renounced Islam, which is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia.

.... Ms Qunun told the BBC earlier that she was afraid her family would kill her.

"I can't study and work in my country, so I want to be free and study and work as I want," she said.

Separately, she told AFP news agency she had suffered physical and psychological abuse from her family, including being locked in her room for six months for cutting her hair.

A spokesperson for her family told the BBC that they did not wish to comment and all they cared about was the young woman's safety.

The UN's refugee agency (UNHCR) said it considered her to be a legitimate refugee and welcomed Canada's decision to grant her asylum. [BBC] Read more

Actress Rania Youssef facing jail term over revealing dress

Rania Youssef is set to appear in court after being accused of "inciting debauchery".

The Egyptian actress appeared at the Cairo Film Festival in a lacy, black, see-through outfit that exposed most of her legs.

A complaint against her was filed by two lawyers, Amro Abdelsalam and Samir Sabry, known for taking celebrities to court. [BBC] Read more

11 January 2019

'Nobody wants you here': Muslim family complains Virginia hospital staff told them they couldn't visit their newborn baby granddaughter because they looked 'scary'

A Muslim family says a Virginia hospital told them they couldn't visit a newborn baby because they looked 'scary'.

Ahmed Zahr's wife had just given birth to a baby girl in early December at Inova Fair Oaks Hospital in Fairfax, Virginia, where his parents, aunt and uncle went to visit.

When they arrived at the birthing center on the third-floor, they were approached by a security guard, reported News4.

'He screams and he says: "You're not allowed to be here!" And then he said: "You know, you look scary",' the aunt, Arwa Zahr, told the station.

The Zahr family believes the security guard was referring to the long black veils worn by Arwa and her mother.

Both women were wearing a niqab, which is a veil that is worn by some Muslim women for reasons of modesty.

The niqab covers the entire face - unlike the hijab, which just covers the hair - leaving an opening slit for the eyes.

There is no law in the US that bans the wearing of the niqab, though wearers may be required to unveil their face during a traffic stop, for a driver's license photo or at an airport.

[TOP RATED COMMENT 3263 votes] They do look scary. The guards job is to protect the property, how can he do that when he can't tell who or what is coming in.

[2ND 2651] Baby theft is real. No one should be on a neonatal ward without their face visible in security cameras.

[3RD 2437] Hard to argue with the hospitals logic.

[4TH 2083] You need to know who is visiting a mother and baby unit. What if a child went missing. Your face should be on show its security.

[5TH 1923] The hospital needed to do what any bank would do and tell them that disguises aren't allowed for security reasons. [Daily Mail] Read more

Hamas leader quits Finsbury Park mosque board after watchdog inquiry

A ruling member of Hamas has stood down as a trustee of one of Britain’s most prominent mosques after an inquiry by the charity regulator.

Mohammed Sawalha’s role at the Finsbury Park Mosque, north London, was investigated by the Charity Commission after The Times revealed in 2017 that he had been appointed to Hamas’s political bureau. The mosque said it was aware of his Hamas role until the report. Mr Sawalha had been a trustee since 2010, making him legally responsible for the management.

The US and EU designate Hamas as a terrorist group. Only the military wing is banned in Britain, meaning that Mr Sawalha has committed no offence.

Separately, the mosque became notorious in the 1990s as the base for the preacher Abu Hamza, now serving life in jail in the US for terrorism offences. The mosque’s new management has worked to shed its links to extremism.

The Charity Commission said it had begun an inquiry after reports about Mr Sawalha’s Hamas role but that it had not reached any findings. [The Times (£)] Read more

London mosque to host Shoah exhibition after Golders Green cancellation

A London mosque is to host the Yad Vashem-supported exhibition on Muslim heroes of the Holocaust after its cancellation by the Centre for Islamic Understanding in Golders Green.

The Love Your Neighbour exhibit will take place in Redbridge on 20 January, though the venue and organisers are being kept under wraps for fear of a repeat of the campaign that led to the Golders Green hub scrapping their event.

Faith Matter’s Fiyaz Mughal, who is supporting the event, said: “Thankfully, the exhibition on Muslims who saved Jews is being held in Redbridge. There is some fantastic work being done in the Borough to bring together communities. [Jewish News] Read more

10 January 2019

Saudi Arabia Introduces New Regulations for Early Marriage

Members of the Saudi Shoura Council on Wednesday approved fresh regulations for minor marriages that will see to outlaw marrying off 15-year-old children and force the need for court approval for those under 18.

Chairman of the Human Rights Committee at the Shoura Council, Dr. Hadi Al-Yami, said that introduced controls were based on in-depth studies presented to the body. He pointed out that the regulation, vetted by the Islamic Affairs Committee at the Shoura Council, has raised the age of marriage to 18 and prohibited it for those under 15.

Wedlock for those within the 15-18 age group will be subject to regulations and must seek authorization by the judiciary, Yami explained.

He pointed out that the new regulations are meant to protect Saudi families and reduce the high rate of divorce, saying that “early marriage sometimes can cause health problems and increase the chances of divorce.” [Asharq Al Awsat] Read more

Religious Exemptions Fuel Bigotry – Ban Non-Stun Slaughter

As the new year opened, a measure preventing the slaughter of animals without pre-stunning came into effect in the Flanders region, which roughly covers the northern half of Belgium. A similar measure will come into effect in Wallonia, in the south, in September.

These regions will join European countries including Denmark, Norway and Sweden in outlawing non-stun slaughter. And the local animal welfare group Gaia is calling for the local authorities in Brussels to follow suit.

In the UK the National Secular Society has called for the UK to repeal the religious exemption to its animal welfare laws, which allows animals to be killed without being stunned to suit Jewish and Muslim preferences. The Belgian decisions have also prompted some debate over whether the non-therapeutic cutting of children’s genitals – ritual circumcision – may be restricted, as lawmakers in Iceland and Denmark have suggested it should be over the last year.

The scientific evidence is overwhelmingly on the side of those who wish to restrict non-stun slaughter. This week the British Veterinary Association’s John Fishwick reiterated the body’s view that the practice causes avoidable harm.

.... On all sides this makes people less willing to abide by common rules, less inclined to look out for each other and less interested in contributing to the greater good. In contrast, upholding consistent rules and laws makes societies fairer, more equal, more cohesive, more tolerant and more liberal. [Conatus News] Read more

Belgium’s Future Head Imam Filmed Calling on Allah to ‘Burn the Zionists’

Mohamed Toujgani , tipped as a future president of the League of Imams of Belgium, has been accused of anti-Semitism after a video emerged of him calling on Allah to “burn and eviscerate” Zionists.

The Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism was alerted to the 2009 film, with president Joel Rubinfeld saying it was anti-Semitic and that the imam was using the word “Zionist” as a substitute for “Jew”, Belgian newspaper La Dernière Heure reports.

In the video, the imam is heard to say, “Lord, master of worlds, fill with fear the hearts of the Zionist oppressors,” going on to add: “Lord, fill their hearts with fear. Lord, make the earth tremble beneath their feet. Lord, make the blood of the martyrs a weapon under the feet of the Zionists oppressors, and may this blood ignite a fire that burns them and start a wind that eviscerates them. […] O Lord, tear them down.” [Breitbart London] Read more

09 January 2019

Atheism grows in Turkey as Recep Tayyip Erdogan urges Islam

According to a recent survey by the pollster Konda, a growing number of Turks identify as atheists. Konda reports that the number of nonbelievers tripled in the past 10 years. It also found that the share of Turks who say they adhere to Islam dropped from 55 percent to 51 percent.

"There is religious coercion in Turkey," said 36-year-old computer scientist Ahmet Balyemez, who has been an atheist for over 10 years. "People ask themselves: Is this the true Islam?" he added. "When we look at the politics of our decision-makers, we can see they are trying to emulate the first era of Islam. So, what we are seeing right now is primordial Islam."

Balyemez said he grew up in a very religious family. "Fasting and praying were the most normal things for me," he said. But then, at some point, he decided to become an atheist.

Diyanet, Turkey's official directorate of religious affairs, declared in 2014 that more than 99 percent of the population identifies as Muslim. When Konda's recent survey with evidence to the contrary was published, heated public debate ensued.

The theologian Cemil Kilic believes that both figures are correct. Though 99 percent of Turks are Muslim, he said, many only practice the faith in a cultural and sociological sense. They are cultural, rather than spiritual, Muslims.

Kilic said Muslims who regularly pray, go on pilgrimages or wear veils could generally be considered pious, though, he added, being true to the faith means much more than just performing rituals or opting for certain outerwear. In his view, "judging whether a person is religious should also be based on whether he or she subscribes to certain ethical and humanitarian values." When only taking into account people who practice Islam, he said, "no more than 60 percent of people in Turkey can be considered Muslim." [Deutsche Welle] Read more

Disappeared Saudi couple highlights crackdown on activists

Story of married Saudis' disappearance last year resurfaces debate on kingdom's crackdown on dissidents.

The cases of Saudi stand-up comedian Fahad al-Butairi and his wife, Loujain al-Hathloul, a women's right-to-drive activist, who were arrested in 2018, has resurfaced following a Twitter thread detailing their disappearance.

In a series of tweets, American writer and television producer Kirk Rudell spoke about his friendship with the Saudi couple who tried to challenge the kingdom's strict social rules.

The tweets about their disappearance went viral, spotlighting Saudi Arabia's crackdown on activists and the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October last year. [Al Jazeera English] Read more

BBC asks if Muslim teen who fled Saudi in fear of death ‘should be able to leave Islam’

In a now-deleted Tweet, BBC Asian network asked viewers if they ‘respected the decision’ of a teenager who fled Saudi Arabia saying she would be killed for renouncing Islam. The Tweet read, ’18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun fled Saudi Arabia as she said her family would kill her for choosing to leave Islam – do you respect her decision?’ The Tweet was rapidly picked up by Media Guido – and the BBC posted an edited version minus the part about ‘respecting her decision.’

Irate readers responded on Twitter with comments such as ‘You’re a waste of taxpayer’s money,’ and the BBC rapidly deleted the Tweet and apologised. A BBC Spokesperson said: “We accept that the original wording of our tweet did not reflect the question being posed on air and was open to misinterpretation. ‘We took action to remove the tweet and clarify the question, which was aimed at Asian Network listeners who had faced their own issues regarding family and religion.

On the programme the audience responded positively to the debate topic and shared powerful stories of bein’g in similar situations regarding family and religion issues in the UK.’ BBC Asian Network previously stirred up controversy with a Tweet asking, ‘What is the right punishment for blasphemy?’ [Metro.co.uk] Read more

BBC Asian Network is forced to apologise amid backlash after asking listeners whether 18-year-old girl was right to flee Saudi Arabia when family threatened to kill her for leaving Islam

The BBC Asian Network today sparked outrage after asking listeners if they 'respected' a teenagers' decision to flee Saudi Arabia amid fears her life was in danger.

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun had planned to enter Australia on a tourist visa and seek asylum before she was detained by Thai authorities on Sunday.

The 18-year-old fears her family will kill her if she were sent home to Saudi Arabia, where she has renounced Islam and 'rebelled' against her father.

After a discussion about the teenager, the BBC Twitter account asked followers if they 'respected her decision.'

.... The BBC has since apologised for the ill-advised tweet, but has faced a furious backlash from social media users.

In a tweet, the BBC said: 'We have deleted the tweet about our earlier discussion on Rahuf al-Qunun.

'The question we asked on air 'How do you feel about the 18 year old Saudi woman's decision to leave her family and religion?' was aimed at our listeners who had faced similar dilemmas in their own life regarding family and religion. [Daily Mail] Read more

Rahaf al-Qunun: UN 'considers Saudi woman a refugee'

A Saudi woman who fled her family and refused to leave a Bangkok hotel has been declared a legitimate refugee by the UN, the Australian government says.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, refused to board a flight from Bangkok to Kuwait on Monday and barricaded herself into her airport hotel room.

She said she had renounced Islam, which is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia.

The UN's refugee agency has referred her case to Australia for possible resettlement.

Thai immigration officials had initially said she should return to Kuwait, where her family were waiting. She then started a social media campaign, live-tweeting her case and attracting international attention. [BBC] Read more